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A TRIBUTE to Randolph Huntington
by Anna Best Joder
from The Arabian Horse News June 1977
(Additional pictures have been added to original article)
Randolph Huntington of Oyster Bay, NY was one of the earliest breeders of the Arabian horse in America. In 1888 Huntington imported the chestnut mare Naomi.
Foaled in 1876, Naomi was the result of mating Yataghan and Haidee, two Arabs brought to England by Major Roger D. Upton. Major Upton selected these two Arabs himself from the Gomussa tribe. He had been commissioned by Albert G. Sandeman M.P. and Henry Chaplin M.P., to bring a group of horses from the desert. The cost of importing this group of horses was $62,000.00 in gold.
Major Upton wrote "Newmarket and Arabia," published in 1873, and "Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia", published in 1881. When Major Upton died, Naomi went to Sandeman who sold the mare to the Rev. F. Furse Vidal. At the suggestion of Lady Anne Blunt and the Hon. Etheldred Dillon, Rev. Vidal, when he retired from the church, offered Naomi to Huntington. The Rev. Vidal later said that Wilfred S. Blunt had tried to get Naomi by trading another mare for her but Rev. Vidal did not feel that any one of three mares that Blunt offered in trade was at all equal to Naomi.
Huntington accepted the sale by cable at once--although the price was "strong" as he remarked. After Naomi was in America, Huntington was offered three times her purchase price for her return but he refused.
To go back a ways: in 1879, the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II, had given two purebred Arabian Stallions, *Leopard and *Linden Tree to General U.S. Grant. The stallions were later registered as Nos. 233 and 234 respectively, by the AH Registry of America. Since Grant had been president of the United States, it was not unusual that he be so honored by the gift.
Having spent considerable time in trying to locate Seward's two Arabians, with no results, Huntington was compiling a book about Old Henry Clay--at just the time the two Arab stallions given to Gen. Grant arrived in New York. Gen GE.F. Beale cared for the two Arabs at his place, "Ash Hill," near Washington, D.C.
Huntington went to see *Leopard and *Linden Tree and was very impressed. He tells about these horses in his book, "General Grant's Arabian Horses," published in 1885. Later Huntington bred some mares to these two stallions.
While yet in England, the lovely Naomi was bred to Maidan by the Rev. Vidal, and produced a filly, Nazli, foaled May 17, 1888. It was later that year that Naomi came to the U.S. She was not bred in 1889, but in 1890, Huntington took her to the court of *Leopard, one of the Gen. Grant Arabians. [Maidan, ch. s. foaled in 1869 Maneghi Hedruj. Desert bred]
Huntington also bought the desert-bred racing stallion Kismet from the Rev. Vidal. Kismet was sent to the U.S. in 1891 but died very shortly after landing in New York [age 14]. This was a great tragedy to the Huntington breeding program. [ * Kismet 253 foaled in 1877 15 hands]
Another book has come to our hands, "The Arab--the Horse of the Future," by the Hon. Sir James Penn Boucaut, with a preface by Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart. The latter was the author of a great many books on horses. Sir James Boucaut lived in Adelaide, Australia. The book, published in 1905, tells of the many troubles that (this) advocate of the Arab horse had in trying to convince others that the Arab should be used as the foundation of all good horses. In this book, The Arab... we found some marginal notations that have made us ponder for a great while. Finally we have decided that those notations were made by Randolph Huntington--that at sometime he had this very book in his possession and so he made notations.
Page 206 has a paragraph that tells of the things that happened to Huntington just when he was finding that the Arab was gaining in popularity. The book says, quoting a reporter, Mr. Bruni, on Oct. 26, 1901:
"...after being neglected for many years, there was evidence that the Arab horse is again coming into favor, and he mentions that at the present sale of American Arabs in New York, bred by Mr. Huntington, an average of $1,840.000 (358 pounds) per head was obtained. Mr. Huntington is referred to in Mr. Speed's article in the Century, as having fought single-handed for almost a quarter century against the prevailing opinion adverse to the value of the Arabian blood...."
The hand-written notation on the border of the above paragraph, in the hand of Randolph Huntington, says:
"The Century for Sept. 1903. I complied with his request for interviews because he (Mr. Speed) was a Kentucky gentleman in hard times after failure of Harpers Bros., on whose staff he had been."
A few pages later:
"Mr. Speed proceeds to inform us that among the breeders of horses in America Mr. Randolph Huntington has been known for more than forty years, who had always held that blood influence was all-important in breeding, and that kindred blood, when pure, could not be too closely mingled. (Harkaway, with forty-four strains of the Godolphin, for example.) Mr. Speed says that Mr. Huntington, being a man acquainted with the history of the horse in the world as well as in America, held that the potent blood in every European type, a well as American type, was of Eastern origin; he therefore hailed the coming of the Grant stallions, and prepared to make use of them by securing some half-dozen virgin Clay mares, themselves rich in Arab blood. With General Grant's consent, Mr. Huntington bred these mares to *Leopard and *Linden Tree, and in a little while had a small collection of the greatest possible interest. He persevered in this for fifteen years, and had developed what he called an American Arab or a Clay Arabian. They were splendid animals--large, shapely, strong, fast, and kindly. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Speed, Mr. Huntington had associated in the ownership of the horses with a New York lawyer--alas, a lawyer!--who proved, in 1893, to be one of the most noted defaulters the United States has known. Mr. Huntington was among the victims, and so his valuable and interesting collection had to be sold and dispersed...."
Again in the marginal notes of Huntington in the book we possess, he says:
"Francis H. Weeks, the defaulter and my treasurer robbed me of every dollar; left me penniless."
Randolph Huntington had wanted to start or develop a National horse for America. He argued that:
"England, Scotland, France and Russia each had a typical horse capable of reproducing its type with excellence in any land to which it may be exported. They are the Thoroughbred racehorse, the Clyde, and the Percheron draught-horses, and the Orloff trotting-horse. Every one of these types is a thoroughbred in its country, based upon the Arabian; and, exported to any land, will reproduce itself physically and instinctively, which our time-standard bred horses will do at present." This from "General Grant's Arabian Stallions."
Things were not easy for Randolph Huntington and he comments on this in the General Grant book:
"Had I anticipated the abusive condemnation I was to draw upon myself, and the privatations suffered, resulting even in financial embarrassment; in the end, through a necessary holding of the stock for the purpose of just estimation of individual values before reproduction,--in fact, a thorough knowledge of the blood instinct, with constitutional fitness for reproduction in each individual case,--added to which was to be incessant physical and mental application, without one single day of rest, with now and then sporting-paper attacks upon an exceedingly sensitive nature, I hardly think my courage would have been equal to the undertaking; nor would it have been except through faith."
Again from the same book he is very outspoken:
"I have abundantly shown that both the English race-horse and the French Percheron were created by man from God's horse, or Arabian. It is no sacrilege to say God's horse, for HE made the Arabian, from which man made the mongrels."
Much credit is given to Count Orloff in this book by Huntington:
"Let us now go to Russia and inquire into their national horse. It is called the "Russian Orloff trotting-horse. This horse should be an argument to the American people. Russia, like America, is a vast territory, and has use for general purpose horses such as have speed at the trotting gait and can endure for long distances. They, too, as a people, wanted what they had not got for work purposes, and particularly the road. They tried the English running-horse, only to prove to themselves, as have we, that he was no good except to run races.
"It seems unfortunate that individuals should be called upon to fight, single-handed, battles for important improvements through rediscovery or inventions, but that is God's will.
"To Count Alexis Orloff is due the Russian trotting-horse bearing his name. The Count imported an Arabian stallion, and by him created a type, through in-and-in breeding after his first outcross. Do not understand by first outcross as one single get, but from selections from all the get of one horse out of differently bred mares. Thus, Count Orloff used Danish mares of low type and English mares, that blood being at the time strongly the affinity or Arabian blood.
"At the time of Count Orloff's death he had a family of thoroughbred trotting-bred horses, which the people had learned to value so high that the government purchased the entire collection late in the forties, or in 1845."
In going on to explain that Count Orloff refused to sell any stallions and how he sympathized with him, Huntington says:
"...Men knowing the burden I was financially carrying, and desiring to help me without putting their hands into their own pockets, would urge me to sell, bringing friends to buy the very choicest of my stock which had just reached an age for reproduction, and which being close bred to purification, were my life in the enterprise..."
To quote again from the Boucaut book:
"He (Huntington) started again, and his small collection was added to from England by Nazli, a pure-bred Muneghi-Hadruji Arabian mare, with which, and other accessions, he pursued a course similar to that previous to the dispersal of his collection, until now he has some forty head of horse, pure and half-bred Arabs, and which Mr. Speed states to be the most promising chance that the States have had in some forty years to establish an American type of high character."
From the above listing, it will be noted that after coming to this country Naomi was bred once to Leopard, three times to her son Anazeh, and twice to her grandson Nimr. Her daughter, Nazli, after the one foal by Kismet, was bred to her half-brothers; three times to Anazeh and twice to Khaled.
We have already mentioned that Huntington believed that it was important to keep the blood closely mingled, so it was, evidently not by necessity that he did so much in-breeding. In a number of his letters, and in his advertising, he always stressed the fact that he had a group of horses "of one family blood" and it was his intention always to preserve a group whose blood was "intensified" by being inter-bred in the same family. It should be recalled that at that early date, little was known outside of Arabia about the different family strains and their special value so Huntington should be credited with great powers of observation in his pioneer breeding experiments.
Huntington's hopes were not realized beyond a comparatively few years through no fault of his as he was soon faced with old age and a set of conditions which made it impossible to carry out his plans. Some of the descendants of the original foundation can be found in present day Arabian horses.
Other articles on Randolph Huntington: